Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer, Year 2
Psalm 146, 147, 111, 112, 113
1 John 1:1-7
How do we learn to focus on the eternal instead of the temporal?
Other than an occasional fanatic labeling the Statue of Liberty an idol, we do not spend much time thinking about idols in today’s world. Very few people stop and bow down to anything they refer to as a manifestation of their god. In the time of the Psalms, however, idols representing various gods existed in homes and community squares all around the Israelites. For the people of the time, and through today’s scriptures, we see a common theme of distinguishing between the temporal and the eternal.
Each of today’s Psalms describes God’s involvement in creation. Everything from the order of nature to the behavior of humankind is explained in the passages of the day with an emphasis on God’s forever presence in contrast to the here-and-now presence of idols. Those idols, made of clay, metal, wood, and cloth, come and go as time and elements wear them away. The seasons and common events in them are described and attributed to God. They happen every year, giving them an eternal quality as they happened in generations past and continue into the future. They are before and after memory because God has declared them so.
Just as God controls the natural world, God also guides human behavior. Psalm 147 closes with the statement that God deals differently with Israel than the rest of the world because they know his laws. The laws of God dictate how we are to interact with one another and especially treat those who are poor and weak and extend from generation to generation. Meanwhile the laws of man exist only in the lifetime of that prince or king. As soon as he dies, the new king issues his own decrees: they are only for his time, the here-and-now presence of kings. God’s laws are universal and unchanging from generation to generation.
The epistle 1 John begins with a declaration of “what was from the beginning” begin present in the here-and-now world of the apostles. They saw and heard Jesus. His presence transcended time from the creation to the present and the Gospel of John passage continues that idea with as Jesus describes going to Heaven to prepare the place for his followers. Together the scriptures create a picture from the beginning, to the present (time of the Apostles), to the future day in which rests our hope.
The busyness of everyday so pervades my life and the lives of everyone I know, that thinking in eternal time proves challenging. My mind focuses on what must be done in the next thirty minutes. Sometimes my calendar becomes my idol, the clock, my god. The unfortunate fact of life is that I live in time, but my actions do not have to be governed by time. By following God’s laws and God’s will for my life, I am affecting the eternal in the temporal world. When I do right by God, I do right. God’s laws are universal and unchanging from generation to generation.
Let us, even in our hectic, busy lives, seek God’s eternal picture in the actions we take and decisions we make. Keeping eternity in mind, we solve the challenges of today.